AIKEN, S.C. – Sewer rates in Aiken are rising for the second time in as many years. The Aiken City Council passed an ordinance Monday to increase the rate by 7-percent. The sewer rate rise was passed down from the Aiken County Public Service Authority and some on the Council are calling it “an uncomfortable arrangement” that the Authority can raise the rate at any time and there’s nothing the city can do about it.
The Horse Creek Water Treatment Plant used by Aiken is 40 years old and the Public Service Authority says it needs severe upgrading. In a letter to the city, the authority said it will raise the sewer rate by seven percent due to old equipment and aging facilities.
Mayor Rick Osbon says, “They’re having to do some substantial work to obviously maintain it and to bring it up to standards. So that’s why the cost is going up and they’re having to hand it down to their customers, which is us in municipalities.” The city was able to cover the bill in the past when sewer rates increased, but no longer. “Last year we had an increase in our charge on our sewer rates that was 2 percent that we did not pass on. This year it’s an 8 percent on top of that and it’s just more than we can absorb,” says Osbon.
With plans in the works to provide 50 million dollars’ worth of renovations to the Horse Creek facility, the council is afraid there will only be more rate increases in the near future. Councilman Philip Merry says, “It is uncomfortable just to be handed that bill and have to pay it without really knowing all the factors that went into it and what to anticipate as far as future increases in those costs as well.”
The new rate for treatment will be 1.35 per 1000 gallons of sewage. A rate that some argue is still a bargain. Councilwoman Lessie Price says, “If you look at the water and sewer rates of those facilities. We are lower, much lower than even some of the small neighboring towns right here in our area.”
But others argue every increase levied on Aiken residents will have a profound effect. “We do have people that are on a fixed income in this town or those folks that really can’t afford to keep getting nickle’d and dimed every time they get a bill in the mail,” says Councilman Merry.